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A turn lasts for as long as a player can remain at the table by potting balls. Players alternate in this way until there are no balls except the white ball on the table, or until one player has clearly won.

The white ball is called the cue ball. The cue ball is struck onto other balls to try and get those balls into the pockets.

The balls must be potted in order of colour. When a ball is legally potted, the player who pots it gains points to the value of that ball.

Snooker is usually played as a match, consisting of several frames. A single game of snooker is called a frame. A match consists of a number of frames.

Snooker is usually played by two players, one against the other, but can also be played as doubles. In a frame, the players on each team will take alternate turns. The order of play is decided before the frame begins and is maintained throughout the frame.


Beginning the game

The first player to break / break off (start the frame by striking the cue ball into the triangle of reds) hits the cue ball from behind the line at the bottom of the table.

The cue ball is struck into the reds. If a ball does not go into the pocket, the next player has a turn. The next player must attempt to pot a red ball, as they are the first balls.

If a player misses a ball, or commits a foul, the other player may take a turn, until they miss. If the non-fouling player wishes, they can ask the fouling player to continue instead.

Ball values

Each ball has a different value. They are rated according to colour, and order in which they are to be pocketed.

BLACK 1 point each
2 points
3 points
4 points
5 points
6 points
7 points
The yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black balls are known as 'the colours' and are listed above in order of how they should be potted.

A red is potted first, then a colour, then another red, then any colour, and so on until all of the 15 reds on the table have been potted. When a red has been potted, it stays in the pocket. Potting consecutive (one after the other) reds is not allowed. See fouls for details.

If a colour is potted out of sequence, it is replaced on the table on its original spot, for example, if a colour is potted before all the reds have been potted, or if it is not the next colour in sequence.

If a colour cannot be spotted in its original position - because there is another ball there, it will be placed on the highest value spot available. If no spot is available, it will be placed as near to its original spot as possible between the spot and the top cushion.


Matches consist of odd numbers of frames, so there will be an eventual winner. Professional players play to 9,11, 19, or sometimes even 33 frames, although the amount can differ according to the specific competition.

Century break
A century break (or any break for that matter) is the number of points a player scores in one turn at the table.

For example: A player may win a frame 117-54, but if the 117 was built up of 8, 24, and 85, it is not a century break. In that case, the big break would be 85. A player may win a frame 117-54. If the 117 is made as 100 or more in one go, then it counts as a century break.

This is the top score attainable in a snooker game. This requires one player to pot a black between every ball after the first red.

Ball rules

If the white ball goes into a pocket, before or after potting a ball, the opponent will get points. If the ball is 'on' a red, the opponent gets four points, or if on a colour, the value of that ball - although the minimum penalty is four points for all fouls.

If a player hits an object ball (any ball other than the cue ball and the ball being aimed for) rather than the ball 'on', it is a foul shot. The penalty will be the value of the on ball or the object ball, whichever is greater. Again, the penalty will be a minimum of four points.

More than one red can be potted in a single stroke, and all points count. If a red(s) and a colour(s) are potted in the same stroke, it is a foul and the penalty is in line with the value of the colour (with a four point minimum).

Similarly, if two balls are hit at the same time, it is only acceptable if they are reds, or a red and a free ball, with the red ball 'on'. Otherwise it is a foul to the value of the highest value ball hit.

If any ball other than the white is used as a cue ball, there is a seven point penalty.

Re-spotted black
The black ball is placed on its spot at the base of the table. The white ball is placed behind the line at the top of the table. Players take it in turns to score with the black. The first player to score wins the game.

This is the term for a play where the cue ball is positioned behind a colour, and its path is blocked to the next ball 'on' (a red ball or if there are no reds, the colour with the lowest value, so the ball 'on' is the ball to be hit next).

If a player is behind but can still win the frame they may play a snooker, to try and get their opponent to play out of the snooker, and leave the cue ball in a position where there is the chance to pot a ball or balls.

Free ball
If a snooker is caused by a foul stroke - where the player cannot hit both sides of the object ball, any coloured ball can be nominated as a red for the next shot. If potted, it counts as one, then a colour is nominated in the normal way. If there are no reds left on the table one of the colours is nominated as a free ball, and if potted, the score is that of the lowest value ball on the table. The nominated colour is re-spotted and then the colours are played in sequence.

Frame rules

Frames where neither player is progressing
In the event of a frame becoming a stalemate, the players may, in conjunction with the referee, agree to re-start the frame. All points gained in that frame are lost.

Finally, a player may exercise the right not to come to the table if they consider themselves to be too far behind in a frame to reasonably win.

A player may also come to the table after the frame has been lost (for example, if there are not enough balls on the table to score enough to win) and play for practice or to maintain rhythm, and although it may raise their score, the frame remains lost to the opponent.

Safety shots

If a player decides that they cannot knock any balls into pockets, they may elect to play a safety shot. This amounts to hitting a ball so gently that it nudges another ball and sits closely behind it, touching. This is sometimes called a kiss.

The strategy behind this shot is that the player knows they will have to leave the table, so to make it as difficult as possible for the opponent to play on, and hopefully not score highly, they leave the ball in an awkward position.

The opponent may try to pot from here, miss, and leave the balls in an open position, although skilled players will either play out of it by potting a ball or by setting up another safety shot.

snooker kiss
This is an example of a safety shot played onto the blue.

Other types of shot

Drag shot
A long shot played with normal strength and back spin to slow it down.

Forcing shot
A stroke played above normal force.

Power weight
A slow shot with just enough pace to put the object ball in the pocket.

Power shot
Forcing shot played with higher pace.

Shot to nothing
Where the player attempts to pot the ball in a way that will leave the cue ball available for further potting if successful, but leaves the opponent in a safe position if unsuccessful.

Stun shot
Where the cue ball stops on contact with the object ball (if full ball), or leaves it at a wider than normal angle if the contact is angled.

Stun run through shot
A shot to slow the cue balls forward motion after contact with the object ball.

Types of spin

The effect of striking the cue ball below centre but in the middle.

Plain ball
When is the cue ball is struck with no spin.

To put back-spin on the cue ball.

Also referred to as 'side'. The effect of striking the cue ball left or right of centre.

Extra side-spin to curve the cue ball around another ball.

The effect of striking the cue ball above centre.

Fouls and misconduct

A player must not:

After a foul stroke by the opponent, a player can play from the position where the balls have come to rest after the foul, or ask the opponent to play the next stroke.

The minimum penalty for a foul is four points, so if a red, or the yellow, green or brown balls are involved in the foul, the penalty remains at four points. This is also the case if the cue ball is potted.

For higher value balls, blue, pink, and black, the penalty is equivalent to the value of the ball fouled. If a player aims for the black and misses, the penalty is seven points.

There is a rule to state that the first impact governs all strokes, but this does not apply if there are two fouls involved in the same stroke.


The balls

Snooker balls are 5.25 centimetres (2 inches and one sixteenth) in diameter. This is for a full-sized table. Smaller balls are available for smaller tables.

The cue

Cues look like a stick which is slightly narrowed at one end. It is the narrow end which has a soft tip which is used to strike the ball. The tip is kept soft by players rubbing chalk onto it. Cues are made in one, two and three piece models.

Most cues are 1.47 metres (4 feet 10 inches) long, but more powerful cues which are 1.43 metres (4 feet 8 and a half inches) are also available. Cues of all sizes are available for different players and tables.

The shaft of the cue is usually made from straight-grained ash (a type of wood). Maple is sometimes used instead. The tip of the cue can be of different sizes, three common sizes are 9 millimetres (0.35 inches), 10 millimetres (0.39 inches), and 11 millimetres (0.43 inches).

The common weight for a cue is between 482 grammes (17 ounces) and 496 grammes (17 and a half ounces).


A rest looks like a cue, except it has a metal or plastic cross, hook, or other shape at the end to hold the cue. They are used for extending the reach of the cue and to allow the player to get to awkwardly placed balls. A long cue, or extension of the players cue, is provided for this.

There are several different types of rest. The main types are the short (half-butt) rest, which is 2.4 metres (8 feet) long, the three-quarter butt which is 2.75 metres (9 feet) long, and the long rest which is 3.6 metres (12 feet) long. There is also a 'spider' rest which provides extra height from a raised bridge at the end of the rest.

The table

The bed of the table (the green playing area) is made from five pieces of machined slate 3 to 8 centimetres (1 to 3 inches) thick. The dimensions of this area are 3.66 metres by 1.87 metres (12 feet by 6 feet 1 and a half inches).

The height of the table is between 85 centimetres (2 feet 9 and a half inches) and 87.6 centimetres (2 feet 10 and a half inches) from the floor.

The playing area is surrounded on four sides by a wooden frame with rubber cushions around it, overhanging between 3.8 centimetres (1 and a half inches) and 5.1 centimetres (2 inches). There are gaps in the cushions at six points to form the pockets.

The surface of the table is covered with a tight woollen cloth known as the baize. The surface of the baize is known as the nap. This refers to how smooth the baize is.

The line at the bottom of the table is 74 centimetres (29 inches) and is called the baulk line. From the mid-point of the baulk line is a semi-circle marked within the baulk area with a radius of 29 centimetres (11 and a half inches). This is called the 'D'.

When the player is 'in hand', when the cue ball is off the table or after it has gone into a pocket, the next stroke is taken from anywhere within the 'D' area, even on the line.

The spots for the other balls are marked out at the point where the ends of the semi-circle meet the baulk line (green and yellow), the centre of the baulk line (brown), and the centre point of the table itself (blue), and halfway between the centre spot and the face of the top cushion (pink). This is called the pyramid spot. The black is placed on a spot 32.4 centimetres (12 and three quarter inches) from the face of the top cushion.

The top end of the table is considered to be the end where the black and pink are. This is also called the black spot end. The bottom end of the table is where the 'D' is, and is also called the baulk end.


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